Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hi, I'm Tom...and I'm a telescope hoarder.

Usually when going to Goodwill, there is often some piece of garbage refractor "Trashco" or similar there for sale.  Often missing something critical like a focuser or even the objective lens.  These things should be put directly in the dumpster rather than on the floor to sell.
Someone will buy it for their kid and wonder why they can't even see the moon through it, or even keep it pointed if there is a view that can be seen.
I was at Goodwill the other day looking for some socks, or something useful.   No, not used socks, but some nicely priced 6 pack or similar.  I walked past the furniture and this caught my eye.  $39 for an 8 inch home-made Dobsonian telescope!  I looked it over and it appeared to be nicely constructed, focuser was nothing fancy, and collimation wasn't too bad, but needed some tweaks. The mirror looked filthy, but it looked ok.  I drove home with it hanging out the back of my Toyota and put it in our hangar and check it out.
A total of 25.5 inches of aperture simultaneously sucking
The mirror was filthy, so I cleaned it up the best I could.  It could use a re-coating for sure, but it was usable.  We had some clear cold nights (rare when a telescope is brought home!).  I checked out the Double Cluster, M-1, Alberio and M42.  All views looks quite decent despite clear but poor seeing that night.  I compared with the 17.5 and clarity was similar but not as bright obviously.
I'm pleased with the find, and this is actually portable too!
Easy collimating screws.

Before - gunky and dusty. 

After - much better!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Comet landing.

A break due to power outages and 2 full days of cold weather - causing me to miss some shows to record about the Philae landing on the comet.  Anyway, I did stream NASA TV through my iPhone the other day on the way to work and heard the excitement when Philae confirmed the landing on comet 67 (I won't try to spell out the "official" name of that ice ball!).
An arm's distance view of a comet.  Wow!
Once there was confirmation of landing, I did shout a "Woo hoo!!" when hearing the ESA team cheering. This stuff to me is so much more exciting than what most people get thrilled about - football.  Bleah!
Today it seems that Philae has gone to sleep due to landing in a dark area and running down the batteries due to a lack of light on the solar panels.  It seems that the general public says "what a failure!" but the space geeks all know this was a historical moment in space exploration. We intercepted a comet, going 41,000mph, 317 million miles away to gentry -drop- a lander on the surface.  Freaking amazingly awesome coolness if you ask me!
The surface mission was shortened, but data was sent back to Rosetta.
Congratulations to the ESA Rosetta team.   Well done!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


"Power transfer is complete - we're on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time."  
-- Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Jack King (Apollo 11)

Power - the light comes on!
It's been a few weeks since any progress has been done on the observatory.  I blame the darkness now that daylight savings has ended, frustration with work, and the commute home in the dark.  Kind of a motivation destroyer.   We took 2 days off work last week and completed a very nice 4 day weekend, so I was motivated to get the power connected today.
All worked well the first try once the cable were connected and the outlet wired in.  Flipped the breaker in the house - poof - we have power!  No big blue spark or anything.
House power comes up through the conduit. 
The weeks of digging that horrible trench, laying conduit, cussing, bleeding, sweating and wondering what I got into - all paid off when I saw the light come on.  Yay!
I attached three more outlets (one on each wall) that will be wired in next from the white cable seen over on the right of the photo.
Soon, I'll hook up the dome motors and the controlling electronics.  This is another big step forward from the last observatory which I shamefully powered with 2 extension cords for about 10 years that it was in operation.  Like I said before, I've learned from my past mistakes and improve on this one.

Looks like a cozy shack doesn't it?